Sukkot: Collected Sources

Ufros aleynu sukkat shalom, shalom -- Spread over us wings of peace, shalom

Draw water in joy from the living well -- Draw water in joy from the living well

Mayim Chayim, Waters of Life, Shalom (Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield)

ושמחת בחגך והיית אך שמך

V'samachta b'chagecha v'hayyita ach sameach

You shall rejoice in your festival and be only joyous.

(יד) וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֖ בְּחַגֶּ֑ךָ אַתָּ֨ה וּבִנְךָ֤ וּבִתֶּ֙ךָ֙ וְעַבְדְּךָ֣ וַאֲמָתֶ֔ךָ וְהַלֵּוִ֗י וְהַגֵּ֛ר וְהַיָּת֥וֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בִּשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ׃ (טו) שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֗ים תָּחֹג֙ לַה' אֱלֹקֶ֔יךָ בַּמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֣ר ה' כִּ֣י יְבָרֶכְךָ֞ ה' אֱלֹקֶ֗יךָ בְּכֹ֤ל תְּבוּאָֽתְךָ֙ וּבְכֹל֙ מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה יָדֶ֔יךָ וְהָיִ֖יתָ אַ֥ךְ שָׂמֵֽחַ׃

(14) You shall rejoice in your festival, with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your communities. (15) You shall hold a festival for YHVH your God seven days, in the place that YHVH will choose; for YHVH your God will bless all your crops and all your undertakings, and you shall have nothing but joy.

שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֗ים תָּחֹג֙ לַה' אֱלֹקֶ֔יךָ בַּמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֣ר ה' כִּ֣י יְבָרֶכְךָ֞ ה' אֱלֹקֶ֗יךָ בְּכֹ֤ל תְּבוּאָֽתְךָ֙ וּבְכֹל֙ מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה יָדֶ֔יךָ וְהָיִ֖יתָ אַ֥ךְ שָׂמֵֽחַ׃

(15) Seven days you shall keep a feast unto YHVH your God in the place which YHVH shall choose; because YHVH your God shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the work of your hands, and you shall be altogether joyful.

(א) והיית אך שמח. לפי פשוטו אין זה לשון צווי אלא לשון הבטחה

And you shall be only joyous: According to the plain meaning of the text this isn' the language of command, rather of promise...

(מ) וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים וַעֲנַף עֵץ עָבֹת וְעַרְבֵי נָחַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם שִׁבְעַת יָמִים. (מא) וְחַגֹּתֶם אֹתוֹ חַג לַה' שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי תָּחֹגּוּ אֹתוֹ. (מב) בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים כָּל הָאֶזְרָח בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשְׁבוּ בַּסֻּכֹּת. (מג) לְמַעַן יֵדְעוּ דֹרֹתֵיכֶם כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַׁבְתִּי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּהוֹצִיאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם.

(40) And you shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before YHVH your God seven days. (41) And ye shall keep it a feast unto YHVH seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever in your generations; ye shall keep it in the seventh month. (42) Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; (43) In order that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am YHVH your God.

Rashbam on Vayikra 23:43

And this is the explanation of the matter: “The Festival of Sukkot shall you make for yourself for seven days, when you have gathered in your grain and your wine” (Devarim 16:13) – when you have gathered in the produce of the land and your houses are full of every sort of goodness – grain and oil and wine – in order that you will remember that I caused The Children of Israel to dwell in sukkot in the desert for forty years, with no place to live and with no portion of inheritance – and for this you shall give thanks to the One Who gave you an inheritance, and houses full of goodness, and do not say to yourselves, “My power and the strength of my hand have achieved this valor for me.”…

And therefore we come out of homes full of all sorts of goodness at the time of the ingathering and dwell in sukkot, to remember that The Children of Israel had no inheritance in the wilderness and no houses to inhabit. And it was for this reason that the Holy One, blessed be, established the Festival of Sukkot at the time of the ingathering of grain and wine, “Lest your heart grow haughty over your houses full of all sorts of goodness;” “Lest you say, ‘Our hand has performed this valor for us.’”

(יז) הִנֵּ֞ה אֲשֶׁר־רָאִ֣יתִי אָ֗נִי ט֣וֹב אֲשֶׁר־יָפֶ֣ה לֶֽאֶכוֹל־וְ֠לִשְׁתּוֹת וְלִרְא֨וֹת טוֹבָ֜ה בְּכָל־עֲמָל֣וֹ ׀ שֶׁיַּעֲמֹ֣ל תַּֽחַת־הַשֶּׁ֗מֶשׁ מִסְפַּ֧ר יְמֵי־חיו [חַיָּ֛יו] אֲשֶׁר־נָֽתַן־ל֥וֹ הָאֱלֹקִ֖ים כִּי־ה֥וּא חֶלְקֽוֹ׃ (יח) גַּ֣ם כָּֽל־הָאָדָ֡ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָֽתַן־ל֣וֹ הָאֱלֹקִים֩ עֹ֨שֶׁר וּנְכָסִ֜ים וְהִשְׁלִיט֨וֹ לֶאֱכֹ֤ל מִמֶּ֙נּוּ֙ וְלָשֵׂ֣את אֶת־חֶלְק֔וֹ וְלִשְׂמֹ֖חַ בַּעֲמָל֑וֹ זֹ֕ה מַתַּ֥ת אֱלֹקִ֖ים הִֽיא׃ (יט) כִּ֚י לֹ֣א הַרְבֵּ֔ה יִזְכֹּ֖ר אֶת־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑יו כִּ֧י הָאֱלֹקִ֛ים מַעֲנֶ֖ה בְּשִׂמְחַ֥ת לִבּֽוֹ׃

(17) Behold that which I have seen: it is good, yea, it is comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy pleasure for all one's labor, wherein one labors under the sun, all the days of one's life which God has given him; for this is one's portion. (18) Every person also to whom God has given riches and wealth, and has given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. (19) For let her remember the days of her life that they are not many; for God answered her in the joy of her heart.

Rabbi Alan Lew, z''l, from This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared

...We sit flush with the world, in a ‘house’ that calls attention to the fact that it gives us no shelter. It is not really a house. It is the interrupted idea of a house, a parody of a house…

And it exposes the idea of a house as an illusion. The idea of a house is that it gives us security, shelter, haven from the storm. But no house can really offer us this. No building of wood and stone can ever afford us protection from the disorder that is always lurking all around us. No shell we put between us an the world can ever really keep us secure from it. And we know this. We never really believed this illusion. That’s why we never felt truly secure in it [...]

In the sukkah, a house that is open to the world, a house that freely acknowledges that it cannot be the basis of our security, we let go of this need. The illusion of protection falls away, and suddenly we are flush with our life, feeling our life, following our life, doing its dance, one step after another.

(יב) יָדַ֕עְתִּי כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין ט֖וֹב בָּ֑ם כִּ֣י אִם־לִשְׂמ֔וֹחַ וְלַעֲשׂ֥וֹת ט֖וֹב בְּחַיָּֽיו׃

(12) I know that there is nothing better for them, than to rejoice, and to do good in their life.

Take good care that your own mind not flee you. I mean the thoughts of your own better self. Just as you guard your money or possessions, making sure no one runs off with them when you are turned away, be even more careful to do the same with your mind, the one you are using to serve God. The best guard is joy to be happy always over the mitzvot you are doing and have done already. The sages spoke of one " who does not stop smiling all day (Brachot 9b)," when he was doing mitzvot. A person who gets to go to the royal palace should be very happy. How much more so if it is the palace of the Divine Ruler. [Each mitzvah is such a palace.] If you rejoice in the mitzvot... you can partake also of this worldly joys...without having your head turned by them. (Liqqutey RaMaL, Breishit, trans. by Rabbi Arthur Green)

(יח) כֵּיצַד. הַקְּטַנִּים נוֹתֵן לָהֶם קְלָיוֹת וֶאֱגוֹזִים וּמִגְדָּנוֹת. וְהַנָּשִׁים קוֹנֶה לָהֶן בְּגָדִים וְתַכְשִׁיטִין נָאִים כְּפִי מָמוֹנוֹ. וְהָאֲנָשִׁים אוֹכְלִין בָּשָׂר וְשׁוֹתִין יַיִן שֶׁאֵין שִׂמְחָה אֶלָּא בְּבָשָׂר וְאֵין שִׂמְחָה אֶלָּא בְּיַיִן. וּכְשֶׁהוּא אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה חַיָּב לְהַאֲכִיל לַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה עִם שְׁאָר הָעֲנִיִּים הָאֻמְלָלִים.

אֲבָל מִי שֶׁנּוֹעֵל דַּלְתוֹת חֲצֵרוֹ וְאוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה הוּא וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֵינוֹ מַאֲכִיל וּמַשְׁקֶה לַעֲנִיִּים וּלְמָרֵי נֶפֶשׁ אֵין זוֹ שִׂמְחַת מִצְוָה אֶלָּא שִׂמְחַת כְּרֵסוֹ.

(18) How [does one make everyone happy appropriately]? Give the children nuts and candy, and buy the women as much nice clothing and jewelry as he can afford. And the men eat meat and drink wine since there is no happiness without meat and wine. And when [the head of household] eats and drinks, he is obligated to feed strangers, orphans and widows as well as all other poor people.

However, if he locks his doors and eats and drinks with his family and does not feed the poor and others going through hard times, this is not the joy which was commanded, but [merely] satisfying his stomach.

Zohar Emor 103b

When people sit in a sukkah, the "shade of faithfulness" -- the shekhinah [the indwelling, feminine divine manifestation] -- spreads Her wings over them and... Abraham, five other righteous ones, and King David make their dwelling with them. And so, people should rejoice with shining countenance every day of the festival, together with these guests [ushpizin] who lodge with them... And we must gladden the poor, for the portion of the guests [one] invite[s] comes from the enjoyment felt by the poor when they eat.

(יז) מוטב לאדם להרבות במתנות אביונים מלהרבות בסעודתו ובשלוח מנות לרעיו. שאין שם שמחה גדולה ומפוארה אלא לשמח לב עניים ויתומים ואלמנות וגרים. שהמשמח לב האמללים האלו דומה לשכינה שנאמר להחיות רוח שפלים ולהחיות לב נדכאים.

(17) It is good for people to increase in their gifts to the poor more than they increase in their meal and the gifts that they send to their companions, for there is no greater or glorious joy than to bring happiness to the hearts of the poor and orphans and widows and strangers, for he who brings happiness to the hearts of these unfortunate people is compared to the Divine Presence, as it says, "To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isaiah 57:15).

(א) .אמרו, כל מי שלא ראה שמחת בית השואבה, לא ראה שמחה מימיו...

They [the sages] said, "Any one who has not witnessed the rejoicings at the water-drawing, has never witnessed real rejoicing in their entire lives." (2) At the expiration of the first holy day of the festival they descended into the women's court, where great preparations were made [for the rejoicing]. Four golden candelabras were [placed] there, with four golden basins to each; and four ladders [were put] to each candelabra, [on which ladders stood] four lads from the rising youth of the priesthood, holding jars of oil, containing 120 lugs, with which they replenished [fed] the basins. (3) The cast-off breeches and belts of the priests were torn into shreds for wicks, which they lighted. There was not a court in Jerusalem that was not illuminated by the lights of the water-drawing.. (4) Pious and distinguished men danced before the people with lighted flambeaux in their hands, and sang hymns and lauds before them;, and the Levites accompanied them with harps, psalteries, cymbals, and numberless musical instruments. On the fifteen steps which led into the women's court, corresponding with the fifteen songs of degrees, stood the Levites, with their musical instruments and sang. At the upper gate, which leads down from the court of the Israelites to the court of the women, stood two priests, with trumpets in their hands. When the cock [first] crowed they blew a blast, a long note and a blast. This they repeated when they reached the tenth step, and again [the third time] when they got into the court. They went on, blowing [their trumpets] as they went, until they reached the gate that leads out to the east.

Sukkah 53a

.. It is reported of Rabbi Simeon Ben Gamaliel: When he celebrated during the rejoicing at the place of the waterdrawing, he used to take eight burning torches in one hand and throw them into the air; as he threw one, he caught another, and not one torch touched the other. When he prostrated himself, he used to fix his thumbs firmly on the ground [and while leaning on them], lower himself, kiss the ground, and draw himself up again, a feat that no other man could perform, and this is what is meant by the genuflection called kiddah.

Sefat Emet 5:182

The joy of the water- drawing place is one of the ceremonies of Sukkot. For it is from there, from joy, that we draw the holy spirit. Joy is the vessel with which we draw the living waters, the holy spirit, of which it is says: "[God] blew into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gen 2:7). As a person holds fast to the lifeforce that each of us has from God, life spreads forth through all of her limbs.

It says [of these festive days]: "We saw no sleep." The Midrash says the same of Moses, that for forty days and nights he was unable to sleep, knowing there was no measure to that which he was receiving in every hour... The light of the entire year depends upon these seven days [of Sukkot]. And the vessel through which we receive that light is joy.

Rabbi Alan Lew, z''l, from This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared

And when we speak of joy here, we are not speaking of fun. Joy is a deep release of the soul, and it includes death and pain. Joy is any feeling fully felt, any experience we give our whole being to. We are conditioned to choose pleasure and to reject pain, but the truth is, any moment of our life fully inhabited, any feeling fully felt, any immersion in the full depth of life, can be the source of deep joy.”

Sefat Emet, Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Lieb of Ger 5:181

"Take unto yourselves the fruit of the goodly tree." (Lev 23:40) On Sukkot God draws Israel near, as it says, "[God] spreads forth a sukkah of peace." [God] protects us as [God's] own children. Israel, too, want to be attached to God; they seek to do good deeds so that it not be God's grace alone that helps them. This is the meaning of "Take unto yourselves"- of your own accord.

Scripture also says: "Tell me the way to live, to be sated with joy in Your presence" (Ps. 16:11). Lulav is numerically equal to hayyim (life); Israel desire the true life of their inner selves. this is what it means to be "sated with joy"- the more deeply you take life into your heart, the more you are sated. This happens through the lulav and the species that accompany it. Israel actually point to God, taking in the light of the sukkah, which is given to them as a gift. When the king invites guests, he gives them what their heart desires. "Whoever invites someone does so with the intent that they eat and drink."

That is why God says to us: "Take unto yourselves," meaning that we should choose life for ourselves. On Sukkot all Israel are granted awareness, as it says: "So that all your generations be aware..." (Lev. 23:43). Awareness for the whole year comes about on Sukkot, the last of the three "legs" on which the year stands....the lulav- species represent the awareness that Israel receive and take into the depths of their hearts.

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every Day
I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight,

that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.

It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen, to lose myself

inside this soft world—
to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.

Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar, I say to myself,
how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these—

the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean's shine,

the prayers that are made out of grass?

Rumi, "The Guest House" trans. Coleman Barks

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם

V'asu li mikdash v'shochanti b'tocham

Yah prepare me to be a sanctuary

Pure and holy, tried and true

And with thanksgiving

I'll be a living sanctuary for you.

(ז) לֵ֣ךְ אֱכֹ֤ל בְּשִׂמְחָה֙ לַחְמֶ֔ךָ וּֽשֲׁתֵ֥ה בְלֶב־ט֖וֹב יֵינֶ֑ךָ כִּ֣י כְבָ֔ר רָצָ֥ה הָאֱלֹקִ֖ים אֶֽת־מַעֲשֶֽׂיךָ׃ (ח) בְּכָל־עֵ֕ת יִהְי֥וּ בְגָדֶ֖יךָ לְבָנִ֑ים וְשֶׁ֖מֶן עַל־רֹאשְׁךָ֥ אַל־יֶחְסָֽר׃ (ט) רְאֵ֨ה חַיִּ֜ים עִם־אִשָּׁ֣ה אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֗בְתָּ כָּל־יְמֵי֙ חַיֵּ֣י הֶבְלֶ֔ךָ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָֽתַן־לְךָ֙ תַּ֣חַת הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י הֶבְלֶ֑ךָ כִּ֣י ה֤וּא חֶלְקְךָ֙ בַּֽחַיִּ֔ים וּבַעֲמָ֣לְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה עָמֵ֖ל תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃ (י) כֹּ֠ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּמְצָ֧א יָֽדְךָ֛ לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת בְּכֹחֲךָ֖ עֲשֵׂ֑ה כִּי֩ אֵ֨ין מַעֲשֶׂ֤ה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן֙ וְדַ֣עַת וְחָכְמָ֔ה בִּשְׁא֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתָּ֖ה הֹלֵ֥ךְ שָֽׁמָּה׃ (ס)

(7) Go, eat your bread in gladness, and drink your wine in joy; for your action was long ago approved by God. (8) Let your clothes always be white, and your head never lack oil. (9) Enjoy happiness with a woman you love for all the fleeting days of life that have been granted to you under the sun—all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life, from the labor you do under the sun. (10) Whatever it is in your power to do, do with all your might. For there is no action, no reasoning, no knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, where you are going.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סוכה דף כז עמוד ב

וחכמים אומרים: אף על פי שאמרו אין אדם יוצא ידי חובתו ביום טוב הראשון בלולבו של חבירו, אבל יוצא ידי חובתו בסוכתו של חבירו, דכתיב +ויקרא כג+ כל האזרח בישראל ישבו בסכת - מלמד שכל ישראל ראוים לישב בסוכה אחת.

Sukkah 27b

The sages say “even though a person cannot exempt himself from his obligation of the four species on the first day of sukkot with a borrowed lulav and etrog, he may exempt himself from his obligation of sitting in a sukkah by using his friend’s sukkah. The basis for this is the verse that says “every citizen of Israel shall sit in sukkot”. This teaches us that all of Israel are fit to sit in one sukkah.

(יב) אף על פי שכל המועדות מצוה לשמוח בהן. בחג הסוכות היתה במקדש יום שמחה יתירה שנאמר ושמחתם לפני ה' אלקיכם שבעת ימים.

(12) ...Although it is a Mitzvah to rejoice on all festivals, on the Sukkot holiday there was a time of overabundant joy, for it is written, you shall rejoice before the Eternal your God for seven days.

(ט) אֹהֵ֥ב כֶּ֙סֶף֙ לֹא־יִשְׂבַּ֣ע כֶּ֔סֶף וּמִֽי־אֹהֵ֥ב בֶּהָמ֖וֹן לֹ֣א תְבוּאָ֑ה גַּם־זֶ֖ה הָֽבֶל׃

(9) The one that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor the one that loves abundance, with increase; this also is vanity.

(ט) נסוך המים כיצד, צלוחית של זהב מחזקת שלשת לגים היה ממלא מן השלוח. הגיעו לשער המים, תקעו והריעו ותקעו. עלה בכבש ופנה לשמאלו, שני ספלים של כסף היו שם. רבי יהודה אומר: של סיד היו, אלא שהיו משחרין פניהם מפני היין. ומנקבין כמין שני חטמין דקין, אחד מעבה ואחד דק, כדי שיהו שניהם כלין בבת אחת. מערבי של מים, מזרחי של יין. ערה של מים לתוך של יין, ושל יין לתוך של מים, יצא. רבי יהודה אומר: בלג היה מנסך כל שמונה. ולמנסך אומרים לו: הגבה ידך. שפעם אחת נסך אחד על גבי רגליו, ורגמוהו כל העם באתרוגיהן .

(9) How are the water libations done? A golden flask, that could hold three logim [a measure], was filled from the Shiloach [spring]. When they would arrive [with it] at the Gate of Water, they would blow a tekiyah, and a teruah, and a tekiyah. He [the priest] would then ascended the ramp [of the altar], and turned to his left; two silver basins were there. Rabbi Yehudah says: they were [made] of plaster, but their surfaces would darken from the wine. And they had perforations [at their bases] like two narrow nostrils, one [the basin for the wine, had a] wider [perforation], and one [the basin for the water, had a perforation that was] narrower, so that they would both run out at once. The western one was for water, and the eastern one was for wine. If one empties the one for water into the one for wine, or the one for wine into the one for water, one [nonetheless] fulfilled [the requirement]. Rabbi Yehudah says: The libations would be done with one log on each of the eight [days]. And they [the people] would say to the one doing the libations, "Raise your hands," because one time it happened that one [priest] poured the libations on his feet, and all the people pelted him with their citrons.

אמר רבי הושעיא: למה היו קוראים אותו בית השואבה? שמשם היו שואבים רוח הקודש.

(8) ...R’ Hoshaya said: why did they call it the celebration of the water drawing? Because from there they would draw the holy spirit.